Monday, September 19, 2011

Warning: Cliche Ahead

Do not read this post if you dislike cliches, especially if you find yourself becoming one.

Do not read this post if you are in a light-hearted, fare-thee-well mood.

Do not read this post if today's blog reading time allotment is 30 seconds per post.

There. Forewarned.

As many regular readers may have noticed, the Matronly output has taken a dramatic down spurt over the past few months. On the one hand, those quirky family stories only go so far and now that the older children have gone all Private on their mother, she is left only with Merrick for the main family fodder. Frankly, he is not that interesting. Cute, yes. Enough to fill a blog? No.

But there's a larger problem. She has trouble dredging up interest in her very own fine life. Indeed, a thin veil of discontent has shrouded yours truly for the pats few months and she finally put her finger on it.

This vague, gnawing discontent immediately spawned a few wonderful changes in day-to-day life. Feeling something dark licking at her heels, the Matron curbed a few bad habits and instilled some new ones. She stopped drinking, as the nightly wine was more a necessity than a treat. Her eating habits took a dramatic turn for the better; no more Snickers bars for lunch. She began exercising daily again after a year in which the workout had become the exception rather than the rule. The meditation pillow came out! She blew off the dust and sat her increasingly fit butt right on it, more than once. When she thought about loving-kindness, she actually practiced it, and her household grew more peaceful. So transformed, her skin cleared up and the skinny jeans from high school slipped over her hips once again.

Lots to be happy about: better health, better body, happier family, shiny skin.



In just two months, the Matron will pen in the number '49' on any pesky form asking her age. Here's cliche number one: she's well aware that she's fallen into the classic well of worry about marking middle age. Her strategy was to take herself in hand. Thank God-Buddha-Oprah-Allah that she doesn't have bunch of cash or she may have purchased a red Corvette.

She can still pull off braids and ponytails and doesn't have any gray hair. Tenure? Nailed! The children are happy and by any measure, successful. There's not much money, but she can still afford to splurge at the thrift store and keep the dogs living the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.

But this, friends, is not enough.

A few weeks ago, HWCBN was bemoaning the plight of American life. Indeed, he could have been a co-writer for American Beauty, when he bitterly observed that his own shining future might very well simply hold a job, bills, mortgage and diapers -and not much else, unless he made something happen.

HWCBN: "That's it? That's what we get out of life? Get up and go to work everyday, pay bills, maybe go to church to pray for something better after you die and then do it all again next week?"

Of course, during her son's existential moment, the Matron said all the right words. No, she exclaimed, there is much more to life! You can make the world a better place for your presence in it, create art, invent new technologies, start political movements -- follow the dream, my darling. Don't settle.

You know where this is going.

Cliche Number Two: the Matron has not been following her own advice. And despite the bounce in her newly toned-up step and astounding job security, she is not happy.

She finally put her finger on it -- not happy. Life is often too mundane to blog about. Not that Scarlett isn't exciting: indeed, you may soon see her face plastered all over national TV (more on that later and it's just a commercial) and HWCBN is quite literally a blur as he launches into adulthood.

Merrick can read.


But that's not her life. That's theirs. She understands the difference and cliche, cliche, cliche, wants to head into the late half of her life knowing that she hasn't squandered this great gift. She wishes children were sufficient fuel for the fire in that belly, but they're not -- at least not in hers.

Cliche, cliche, but . . . it's time for a change. A return, perhaps. For the Matron was happiest when engaged, full-throttle, with a cause larger than herself. From running political campaigns to environmental organizations to writing novels, she's been at her best while producing something more enduring than a paycheck or offspring.

She's not sure what that change will mean. There's a book project winking at her from a shelf, something she never has 'time' for. She's always been meaning to apply for that Fulbright. She's been invited to write a play for a local theater company and well, just never gets around to it. Why can't she start her own non-profit and find a way to more directly do good in the world? Certainly, this change isn't an overnight decision, but a process.

The one thing she knows is that she'll take her family with her. Don't worry John. She's not slinking off with someone younger. At least she has sense enough to know that cliche is not very becoming.

Long, long ago, her younger self read a review of a slim book of poetry in the New York Times. The reviewer marveled at the raw rare beauty of the poems, mourned the fact that the writer only produced this one tiny volume before dying, too young, in her late thirties. What a loss, he proclaimed! If only this writer had given us more before her time ran out! The world would be better, he concluded, for the grace of her work in the world.

His advice to the rest of us?

"Know when it's time to skip the party, and write the poems."



MJ said...

I haven't been posting lately for the same reason. Perhaps its the year? The season? Writers block too will pass.

kateebee said...

Don't get to wrapped by the number 50 that you see. It is freeing.

20 was about making lists and goals and dreams.
What I will do! What I can be! Places I'l ;go!

30 was about ticking the items off the list;
To,e os ticking. Make that deadline. Work for that promotion. Fit that trip in. Accomplish this, do that. There is a pressure to collect experiences as though there is an expiration date on the gift card.

40 was about editing the darn list and changing perspective. Slow down and little and see where you have been. Ease up on the "you must accomplish the list." Giving yourself permission to just enjoy the life that is instead of striving for that ideal you had when you 20.

50 has been about who am I? What would I answer if anyone asked me what makes me happy? What have I done today that has given me pleasure - large or small. I will go someplace because there is something I want to see or do or experience, not just to tick it off the list I give myself permission to take perspective on things that would have sent me on a righteous rage last decade. I can eat off the seniors menu where the price and portions match my appetite.

I look forward to 60. I will speak my mind more and care less about what other people think. I can stop racing towards a goal, missing the scenery in the haste and enjoy the journey more. I can acknowledge that I have done things and said things and been things that I am proud of. And not feel pressured to add more just to please other people.

I look forward to the decades to come.

Eric Smith said...

I feel your angst.

3limes said...

Brave and well put. You have eloquently put into words something we all feel at one time or another. Happiness, we assume comes from the other, the children, the job, the mechanics of life. Find what makes you tingle with excitement and do that. And keep blogging, even not as often, it is still worthwhile.

Suburban Correspondent said...

The 40's feel an awful lot like adolescence to me. Disillusionment, "who am I?", meaning of life issues - they're all there. Couple that with having an actual teen in the house? NOT FUN!